He was singularly uncommunicative, and passed his time in fishing, by which he might have lived, not only as a matter of sustenance, but as an article of commerce.
The information gained by Captain Len Guy was necessarily incomplete, as it was confined to Hunt’s conduct during his residence at Port Egmont. The man did not fight, he did not drink, and he had given many proofs of his Herculean strength. Concerning his past nothing was known, but undoubtedly he had been a sailor. He had said more to Len Guy than he had ever said to anybody; but he kept silence respecting the family to which he belonged, and the place of his birth. This was of no importance; that he should prove to be a good sailor was all we had to think about. Hunt obtained a favourable reply, and came on board that same evening.
On the 27th, in the morning, in the presence of the authorities of the Archipelago, the Halbrane’s anchor was lifted, the last good wishes and the final adieus were exchanged, and the schooner took the sea. The same evening Capes Dolphin and Pembroke disappeared in the mists of the horizon.
Thus began the astonishing adventure undertaken by these brave men, who were driven by a sentiment of humanity towards the most terrible regions of the Antarctic realm.
THE OUTSET OF THE ENTERPRISE.
Here was I, then, launched into an adventure which seemed likely to surpass all my former experiences. Who would have believed such a thing of me. But I was under a spell which drew me towards the unknown, that unknown of the polar world whose secrets so many daring pioneers had in vain essayed to penetrate. And this time, who could tell but that the sphinx of the Antarctic regions would speak for the first time to human ears!
The new crew had firstly to apply themselves to learning their several duties, and the old—all fine fellows—aided them in the task. Although Captain Len Guy had not had much choice, he seemed to have been in luck. These sailors, of various nationalities, displayed zeal and good will. They were aware, also, that the mate was a man whom it would not do to vex, for Hurliguerly had given them to understand that West would break any man’s head who did not go straight. His chief allowed him full latitude in this respect.
“A latitude,” he added, “which is obtained by taking the altitude of the eye with a shut fist.”
I recognized my friend the boatswain in the manner of this warning to all whom it might concern.
The new hands took the admonition seriously, and there was no occasion to punish any of them. As for Hunt, while he observed the docility of a true sailor in all his duties, he always kept himself apart, speaking to none, and even slept on the deck, in a corner, rather than occupy a bunk in the forecastle with the others.
Captain Len Guy’s intention was to take the Sandwich Isles for his point of departure towards the south, after having made acquaintance with New Georgia, distant eight hundred miles from the Falklands. Thus the schooner would be in longitude on the route of the Jane.
On the 2nd of November this course brought us to the bearings which certain navigators have assigned to the Aurora Islands, 30° 15’ of latitude and 47° 33’ of east longitude.
Well, then, notwithstanding the affirmations—which I regarded with suspicion—of the captains of the Aurora in 1762, of the Saint Miguel, in 1769, of the Pearl, in 1779, of the Prinicus and the Dolores, in 1790, of the Atrevida, in 1794, which gave the bearings of the three islands of the group, we did not perceive a single indication of land in the whole of the space traversed by us. It was the same with regard to the alleged islands of the conceited Glass. Not a single little islet was to be seen in the position he had indicated, although the look-out was most carefully kept. It is to be feared that his Excellency the Governor of Tristan d’Acunha will never see his name figuring in geographical nomenclature.
It was now the 6th of November. Our passage promised to be shorter than that of the Jane. We had no need to hurry, however.